In support of Autism Awareness Month, Land O'Lakes Purina would like to take a moment to recognize children and families living with autism.
Chris Wallrauch: So Much More Than Eggs
It all started with a stuffed chicken intended for Beverly Wallrauch's nephew. Yet, when her youngest son, Chris, saw the stuffed animal, he loved it so much she didn't have the heart to take it away. Children with autism often become very attached to objects, and Chris was no exception.
Chris, 11, has a form of high functioning autism that entails problems with social interaction and a heightened anxiety of places and things he doesn't know.
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 110 American children as on the autism spectrum. Studies also show that autism is three to four times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 70 boys is diagnosed with autism in the United States. (http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism, 2012)
A Helping Hand
Chris' love for chickens grew from a stuffed animal and before long he wanted a real one. Since chickens were one thing that he would readily talk about with others, his parents decided to build on it.
"We have a little farm, so keeping chickens wouldn't be that big of a deal," said Beverly Wallrauch, Chris' mother. "In April of 2008 we purchased nine chicks. Chris was so happy about them he wanted to tell everyone about his chicks."
When they were big enough, Beverly and Chris took two of the chickens to his school for a 'chicken visit' day. It was the beginning of Chris interacting with his classmates. He was so proud of his hens he began interacting and telling his classmates all about them.
"For a child who has an extremely hard time in crowds and expressing himself with others, here he was with 20 kids around him talking about his chickens and letting the others pet them, which was pretty amazing," Beverly said. "And he couldn't wait to do it again."
Since then, the Wallrauch's have added more chickens to their farm including a Faverolle Rooster named Favio, who is Chris' favorite. Currently, Chris's flock is just a pet project and may one day be used for showing in 4-H.
"Chris has learned so much about chicken behavior just by watching his birds. I am amazed at how he seems to know what each individual sound means and even how to decipher their body language. He has taught me quite a bit just from these observations. He has also used this learning to better understand people," Beverly said. "This is no small thing for a child who had significant communication problems."
Eventually, Chris got the courage to attend a pet care class. Seeing how comfortable it made Chris when he has an animal by his side, his parents decided to get him an autism assistance dog. Having a dog that could go anywhere with him has helped further open up his world by giving him confidence and helping him talk to others.
"Every morning and every night Chris loves to go out to the barn and hang out with his chickens. He says that they help him feel calm," Beverly said. "I am certain that my son would not be where he is today without the help of all of his animals. He is an 'A' student and is getting better every year with making new friends and even playing some sports. He even talks about going to college and becoming a veterinarian. Chickens have brought us so much more than just eggs."
For more information on autism please visit Autism Speaks at www.autismspeaks.org.
So you've just brought home your new baby chicks and you're wondering 'what do I do now?' With questions swirling around you about their care and upkeep, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Don't panic! Here are some helpful guidelines for getting your fuzzy friends off to a good start.
Chick Days — Your Chicks' First Few Days
Here is some basic information on housing and feeding your chicks to make sure you are up to speed on providing optimal care. If you find that you are lacking in these areas of care, be sure to remedy the situation as soon as possible to give your chicks the best chance for success.
The first few days of a chick's life are critical. It is best to have your brooder set up, temperature properly adjusted, and feed and water ready when your chicks arrive. Supplying a little extra TLC in these important first days will go a long way in giving them the best possible chance for a healthy future.
- Gently lift each chick out of their Purina Chick carrier and place them one at a time under the warm brooder.
- Prevent chicks from chilling or getting too hot! The best measure to determine if the temperature in the brooder is correct is how your chicks behave. If right on target, the chicks will be evenly dispersed. Chicks that huddle together under the heat source are cold and overheated chicks will station themselves around the edges of the box or brooder guard, and may pant. The temperature should be increased or decreased accordingly by raising or lowering the lamps or adjusting the heat source. Day-old chicks prefer an ambient temperature of about 95 degrees. This can be lowered each week by 5 degrees.
- Dip the beaks of a few chicks into the water. This helps them find it sooner and the others will quickly catch on by watching. When starting turkeys, be extra watchful as they are not as quick to pick up on the mechanics of eating and drinking. You may have to assist them repeatedly before they are reliably eating and drinking.
- During the first few days, use shallow pans, egg flats or squares of paper as temporary feeders. Small piles of feed placed on them will allow the chicks to find the feed easier and start eating earlier. On the second day, regular feeders can be introduced. Keep feeders full the first week. Feeding area should be big enough to allow all chicks to eat at the same time.
- Occasionally check your chick for signs of "pasting up". Sometimes their droppings will stick to their rear ends and accumulate to where it blocks their vent and the poor chick can't relieve itself. If you find your chick's rear end is caked up, gently clean the vent area with a warm, soft cloth and warm water. This is usually not a problem after the first week.
- Provide chicks with 18 hours of light per day for the first week and at least 10 hours per day thereafter (natural light counts). Use dim lights (a 25-watt bulb is fine) as bright lighting can encourage aggression.
- Never let feed or feeders get wet! Wet feed is a breeding ground for disease and a recipe for disaster!
- Clean and refill waterers daily or more often if contaminated with feed or litter. Feeders should get a good cleaning weekly and more often if necessary. Each week raise the level of the feeders and waterers to the level of the chicks' backs; this will keep the chicks from defecating and kicking litter into their feed and water.
- Remove wet or caked litter as necessary and replace with clean, dry litter.
- The best protection from disease in chicks is good management and proper sanitation of their environment. Extra effort in this area will go a long way in keeping your chicks healthy. Always keep the premises dry and don't allow exposure to older birds or other animals.
- Chicks should be vaccinated against poultry diseases common to the area you live in. Chicks are usually vaccinated against Marek's disease at one day of age, so they may have already received this protection at the hatchery. Check with your local veterinarian for vaccination recommendations.
- Be sure to feed your chicks a complete and balanced diet intended for young chicks like Purina Mills Sunfresh® Recipe Start & Grow® feed. What you feed today will determine how healthy and productive your birds are tomorrow!
- Don't worry if your chicks seem to be sleeping a lot. Like all baby animals, a majority of their time is spent sleeping and eating
Purina® SunFresh® Recipe Flock Raiser® Poultry Feed takes "natural*" to an entirely new level by using only the freshest, highest quality sun-grown grains and plant proteins. It is a nutrient-rich feed, perfect for a mixed flock of chickens, ducks and geese from hatching until laying age (18 to 20 weeks) and turkeys from 8 to 10 weeks until laying age. Flock Raiser® provides your poultry with the quality nutrients they need to grow and stay strong, healthy and beautiful.
Get to Know Purina® Flock Raiser®
SunFresh® Recipe Poultry Feed
- SunFresh® Recipe feed—Fresh, natural* plant proteins, FREE of all animal proteins and fats
- Small, Crumbled Pieces—Waste less feed and ensure proper food intake
- Superior Nutrition Including Essential Amino Acids—Provide chicks with a strong start, optimal muscle development, uniform growth, and top vigor
- Vitamins A & E—Support overall health, reproduction, vitality, and a healthy immune system throughout your bird's life
- Exclusive Level of Marigold Extract—Give your birds brightly colored beaks, shanks, and overall appearance
- Complete and Balanced—Provides wholesome nutrition for your entire mixed flock with no supplements needed
*with added vitamins, nutrients, and trace minerals